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Creative Nonfiction from Teri Costello

By Teri Costello

It was winter. I wore the uniform, suits and high heels, hairdos and makeup. My charcoal wool suit had a slit up the back of the skirt, just enough.

Meeting each week to strategize with the boys at the downtown office, I made recommendations to improve their accounting. They were my age - early forties. Young Turks. The conversations were smart. I was hitting my professional stride. I knew what I was about, what they were about, what they needed, and how to deliver. Good times.

In a singular moment, walking down the hall to one of those meetings (it was a Wednesday), my world changed forever. I felt the earth move under my feet, like the song said - but not in a good way. As I entered the conference room, all heads turned, all eyes were on me, mesmerized by the worms slithering out of my nose, mouth, and ears, the flames shooting out of the top of my head.

I started to speak and couldn’t put two thoughts together. Most of my vocabulary was gone, and I could manage only short, awkward squeaks - this as sweat rolled down my back, legs, neck, and face. I looked down, trying to compose myself, and the glassy eyes of my coldcocked self-esteem stared up at me from the carpet. I thought I was dying.

“Is it warm in here?”


Sparklers began to fly across my mind’s eye. Maybe they were in my eyes. Maybe I was having a stroke. Maybe there were no little sparklers.

After two weeks, I called the doctor. I told him I had lost the ability to comprehend simple concepts, my communication skills were gone, and I had gained sparklers, worms, sweat, and oh, a logic-blinding, generalized fury.

He told me to come in and give a blood sample, that he would see me when the results were back. And he’d put a rush on that. He said, “I am going to leave the phone now, Sweetie, but Natalie will come on the line, and she will set these appointments up for you. Okay?”

“Okay,” I whispered.

Thank God - the man knew I was losing my grip and had just attached a lifeline from him to me. Or, he was just trying to get rid of me - the old Natalie trick. He probably used it every time crazy people called him.

A week later I sat in his office.

“You’re too young for this to be happening now,” he said, “but it is. Your hormone activity has completely shut down.”

I laid my head on his shoulder and cried for forty-five minutes - he’s that kind of doctor. I finally gave him a break from the worms and snot and raw fucking hopelessness that were oozing out of me and asked him where we go from here.

The first year was the toughest. Some days I would walk down that hall into a meeting as Superwoman. More often I was rolling down the same hall spread-eagle on a wheel of death, naked, glimpsing wide-eyed boys watch me crash into walls and chairs.

Everyone goes through it differently; I heard that a lot. Even so, can you tell me how they got through it, differently? The German aunts weren’t talking, and my peers were my age, too young for menopause.

It was difficult to leave the house some days. But I did it; we do it. Out of nowhere appeared a sane twin who watched over me, kept me from killing anyone.

* * *

Three years later I was working out of my home office, expecting a client. She called, crying, to say she wouldn’t be keeping her appointment. She had just left to meet with me when her car broke down in the middle of a busy intersection. She got out of the car, walked to the front bumper, and repeatedly kicked it. Then she turned and walked home.

“No worries,” I said. “We’ll reschedule when you feel better.”

BIO: Originally from San Diego, a CPA by profession, Teri Costello took down her shingle in 2011 and moved to Indianapolis after living in Los Angeles and Chicago. In her words, “Life now is sweet, close, and personal.”